Remembering the Oral Health of Persons with Disabilities

Remembering the Oral Health of Persons with Disabilities

Oral health is important to the health and well being of people with disabilities. Good oral health promotes communication, good nutrition, self-esteem and an enhanced quality of life. It can lead to the reduction or elimination of pain and discomfort. On the other hand, poor oral health (bad breath, overcrowded teeth or unsightly decay) reduces a person’s ability to eat nutritious food, negatively affects self image and confidence, and causes significant pain.

The United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities was 3rd December, 2015. Its theme this year spoke about inclusion, and I hope that we can put this year’s theme into everyday practice. The theme for 2015 is, “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities”.

The essential benefits arising from oral health cannot be underestimated. Good oral health empowers people with disabilities to face the world with more confidence, promoting their participation and contribution.

Research has shown that people with disabilities are more likely to have oral health problems and require more treatment than the rest of the population.Children with disabilities, when compared to children who do not have disabilities, have 30% more untreated dental decay. They also have more extractions and less preventive work, such as fissure sealants. Adults with disabilities typically have more missing teeth, need more dental treatment and are 20% more likely to have no teeth at all, if they are over 55, when compared with non-disabled adults.

The mouth health of persons with disabilities can be compromised by general risk factors. There are research findings that havepointed to possible associations between chronic mouth infections and diabetes in this population (US Surgeon General’s Report, 2000). Other research (European) indicates that persons with disabilities are at increased risk of dental decay, gum disease and mouth cancer due to poor oral hygiene, a diet high in sugars, prevalence of cigarette smoking and the effects of medication.

People with disabilities, should be confident, that when they go for oral health services, that they will feel important and valuable to their dentists. A gooddentist should endeavor to provide quality service to all persons, even those persons who may have poor understanding, uncontrolled movements, limited mouth opening and/or poor posture. They should also do the same, with the patient who may have limited mobility, may experience tiredness during treatment or may have medical problems.

Commonly, people with disabilities may require more specific supportand re-orientation of practice and service provision,in order to access mainstream oral healthcare provision.

Oral health needs for persons with disabilities need to become integrated into holistic health policies and be included into general healthcare professional training. Presently,oral health is, for the most part, divorced from the general health world. Doctors do not always think about the oral health implications of medication they might prescribe and dentists do not always request doctors’ co-management on cases, often enough. The comprehensive management of the patient with disabilities is dependent on the revitalization of the Doctor-Dentist team.

All mouth health is important. Someone who has a disability should be treated like someone who does not have a disability. Equality is the best policy.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended and may not be treated as, a substitute for professional medical/dental advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or dental professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical/dental condition. Never disregard professional medical/dental advice or delay in seeking it because of a purely informational publication.

Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Andre R. Clarke. All rights reserved. Reproduction of this article, in whole or in part, is prohibited without written permission. If you have questions, please send email to dr_andreclarke@hotmail.com

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